rends are trending theses days. From fashion to music, we in general are so used to the narrative, and easily swept up with what is hot, what is perceived as kewl, or what is on trend. And alarmingly these terms have swept their way into the visual communication field, with designers becoming subservient to trends, or at least the clients that aspire to them. But this business of trends is in fact irrelevant to any meaningful long term branding or marketing objectives for any business. Why would you want to strap your brand to a trend? When the trend is done, so is your brand.
Hardly a strategy for any business model with durability and longevity in mind. And surely that is most out there. Why would you pursue a course that will put an exploration date on your brand appeal?
Trends are trends, true design never bends
It is the designers’ job to create a world previously unknown, to encourage people to view things from different angles and to think twice about what they have taken granted. A designers primary job is to help your brand and product stand out, and differentiate it from the rest, so that your endeavors become memorable in a way that is authentic to you.
Following a trend is the exact opposite. It lumps you with the herd, making you and your organization seem like a follower, not a leader. On the part of the designer it shows a complete lack of imagination and is nothing short of laziness.
Every individual designer should bring their own experience and contribution when looking to solve particular creative problems, and the solutions they provided should differ from designer to designer, for that same problem. As they are suppose to be bringing their own unique capabilities.
The design industry as a whole should fervently reject trend-ism, as keeping the solutions authentic is the only way to improve and keep the freshness of the industry, stem the commoditization of creative thinking, and ensure its future relevance.
Knowing what are not trends.
And the industry can start by modernizing its vernacular by rejecting trends as a legitimate concept within terminology. There is much inadvertent legitimization of trends in the way the industry communicates concepts, which leads to confusion for clients, and even for those within the industry.
For example, nowadays user experience design plays a major part in the rise of the smart phone. And we can read untold articles that claim the current trend of UX design is simplicity.
Such nonsense. Simplicity is not a trend, it is an attribute, that in this case, performs a critical function. As wagging tongues and design pundits clamber to make themselves relevant on blogs (we realize you are reading this on a blog), they conflate and appropriate terminology, and it all adds up to the blurring of fundamental lines and understanding. They need to actually grasp the consequences of their meaning. Simplicity is never a trend. In design, it is the rule. And this is specially so of UX design. Everything that makes the UX easier to use is an improvement, not a trend. It’s not as if UX designers are suddenly in 3 years going to decide to make things harder to use. It’s absurd. Keep the trend talk to things that are actually trends, goodness knows there are already enough of them, we are at saturation.
The trend take down.
Trends are those things created out of the context. They are general concepts that are not tailored for any specific product, brand or objective. They are arbitrary applications of superficial and often meaningless styles. While style itself is not meaningless, it becomes so once context, authenticity, and objectivity are neglected to adhere to a trend. They are a reactionary way of trying to make an endeavour current, for short term gain, without any consideration for valuable long term objectives. There is no vision involved.
But worse than that, even through the short life cycle of a trend, once you have adopted one, you have placed your organization within the fold of that trend, shared by many other organizations with which you have no affiliation. You make your organization less distinguishable, not more, and your narrative plays second fiddle to the trend. At best you can hope that your offering can seem hip for a short lived fifteen minutes. And we don’t think there’s anyone out there that aspires to their service and product looking generic.
It’s hardly providing you the edge, is it.
How do you expect your brand identity to represent, when it looks like Rainbow Bright has been ill all over your letterhead?
Some of the trendiest culprits.
Sadly “Design trend” has now become a trendy topic with in the design industry. The colour of the year from Pantone, which is a transparent craven marketing gimmick and makes us think of Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly quote about the colour cerulean (blue), in the movie The Devil Wears Prada. The difference being of course that fashion trends are set in spring and autumn to keep the clothing consumerism machine alive and well, and are completely irrelevant in branding and marketing, unless of course you want to rebrand your company twice a year.
Staying on the theme of fashion to illustrate the folly of trend-ism in branding and brand marketing. Ladies and some gentlemen, imagine, you’re at a bar, and you notice a guy (sorry lads’ it’s about to get subjective) over in the corner. He seems confident, well put together, holds himself well and is holding the attention of a number of people, so likely is quite eloquent. You are intrigued, you like what this guy is selling, so you move closer to get a better look. At that moment he turns his head, and boom, there it is. A man bun. Suddenly you feel confused, something is off, it doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of his brand, you’re getting mixed messaging and all that anticipation of what promise the initial viewing had is dashed. You move on quickly. And it is the same with branding and marking, leave the trends out, otherwise your audience will sense the conflict with authenticity and entertain other options. Trends are the man bun of branding and marketing. Make sure your brand or marketing strategy does not include a man bun.
Then there is the hologram effect that seems to be saturating much of the creative offering of many aspiring design agencies. Everything from fancy boutique retail, high end restaurants, tech start ups, publishing, and even design agencies themselves, end up looking like they have raided the stock room of a toothpaste packaging plant. Yes, hologram effect print is kewl, but it also has to fit. It’s not good enough for it to be the basis of the idea. There actually needs to be design concept at he centre of it all, of which the paper and printing choice is part of the detail, not the entire hook. Since when has fitting in and not considering longevity and target audiences become a positive design rule that any designer would follow? The answer of course is never. If you can’t directly connect and justify the hologram objectivity in the project, best to leave it to when you get that big toothpaste packaging gig.
Moving on to fonts. Well fonts themselves are a necessary part of visual communication for obvious reasons, so it’s not the fonts themselves that are at fault. There are a myriad of typefaces available out there to help conjure up a feeling, relate to a specific audience, and capture the essence of the message. Many fonts have become iconic, and associated with different periods in history and even particular organizations. New fonts come and go, and the design blogs are all a flutter with the hot new font creations. And there is nothing wrong with the industry celebrating design ingenuity. But then inevitably this turns to crowning fonts of the year, and that is where the problem starts. When dealing with objective solutions based visual communication, this is irrelevant. Yet the number of times we’ve over heard designers talking up the using of the font of the year as if it were in any way a positive relevant project attribute, makes us shudder. Just no! Fonts should be engaged with and incorporated in a project in the context of achieving specific objectives. Nothing to do with how many other designers have used that font this year or not. If your designer can’t think of any specifics as to how their chosen font relates to the imagery you are trying to create for your brand, but sells it to you as the font of the year, walk away.
And let’s not forget the now ubiquitous gradient. Goodness, it is everywhere. From new brand identities to social media meme quotes, and everywhere in between. While it may seem harmless enough as a background for social quotes, it often has no connection to what is actually been said and only serves as a superficial, meaningless, and obnoxious delivery. It’s the social media equivalent of all caps. ‘Hey, I’m saying something important’, gets presented in ridiculous rainbow effect. And this is the best case scenario for any gradient use. When it comes to brand identity, it is by a long shot, one of the more Cardinal of sins. How do you expect your brands, spanking new identity to reproduce effectively in miniature, say as a favicon, or in black and white, when it looks like Rainbow Bright has been ill all over your letterhead? In this regard we don’t even need to reiterate the passing trend issue. When a logo with a gradient can’t even pass the test of basic function, and reproduction, it’s got to be a fail.
Societies trend cravings.
Of course much of this trending trend has come about to legitimize and push consumerism, and this has definitely had some influence and consequences for the design industry. This pursuit of short term goals and affirmation will not serve either the client or the designer in the long run. Trendification is not about what the best solution is for the problem at hand. It’s about making people value things on a superficial level, with out regard for there real purpose or function. It gets them to aspire too and abandon things and ideas in ever increasing turn.
Once one trend is no longer new, there is a fresh that renders it irrelevant. And for people to identify with what’s current, they need to be associated with the latest trend. It Leads to a viscous cycle where the Individuals are left to feel inadequate, and so try to fill their void with more up to date current consumer stuff. The stuff that is contributing to their feeling of lack of value in the first place. How exhausting.
Don’t miss understand what we are saying here. We are not broadly rallying against products or consumer goods, there are plenty out there at bring value through real purpose, and truly add to qualify of life. The catch is, cheap meaningless products of little long term value, will likely rub off the feeling of those attributes on the purchaser, and trend based products are the biggest culprits.
Designer sheep should stop selling themselves to the trend wolf.
And of course this is not sustainable as a business model or a designers creative operandi. It’s certainly not about setting the right image for your business in any concerted effort, but about putting projects on the flow line, so the design process, at all costs, become more efficient, yet leave the creative outcomes with so soul, and little discernible long term purpose.
We as designers, seem to have accepted it to a certain degree, with some within our industry actually embracing it, or more accurately, craving it. Trends are something that the design industry should do their best to discourage. It should be something that is recognized as bad for business, when looking to establish litmus tests for best practices.
Ideally there should be no such thing as “trends” in design. We should only offer strategies that are tailored for each particular case. Because to put things bluntly, when a designer is putting forward a concept, and a graphic or colour treatment is being applied without context, as in the case of a trend, it’s plain rubbish.
So while this article may have seemed a little direct, and undoubtably will make some trend prone within the design industry feeling a little bothered, these things need to be addressed. Trendism is bad, no matter how well it is sold to you, and every designer knows this in their designer soul.
The great news for business is that there are plenty of ways to get your brand and products up front and centre with out strapping your hopes to trends. And many wonderful designers and branding experts out there that understand the trend risks and avoid them. Coming up with original, dynamic, authentic, engaging, visual communication that will build your branding, product or marketing efforts with a solid foundation that will endure and build value now and over the long term.
As a business person you are looking to differentiate your efforts, establish your market share dominance through individuality, and set the standards within your industry. And following what others are doing is no way to go about it. Seasoned design professionals understand this at their core.
This has been The Long and Short on ‘The Valuelessness of Trends in Business’ We hope you have found it to be at least a little informative. For more chat on graphic design topics in the future, be sure to check back in with us here, follow us on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for our newsletter.